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Old 10-05-2012, 11:00 PM   #1
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NST - Natural Seawater Tank

I know this can be quite a controversial topic, but I figure I'd share for those interested.

There are many people that do this, but it's obviously something that depends on your locale. The idea isn't mine alone or even remotely new, but it's one that I don't see often come up in these circles.

This is the basics for my idea of a NST, not necessarily rules but basic guidelines that I'd like to follow.

This tank is using natural seawater taken from a clean water source. This tank is also utilizing live sand and local macroalgae and fauna when applicable.

I'm not a purist by any means, and I'm all for working with what you got, so to speak.

This is my first attempt at this type of tank, so I'll keep a log of progress and changes as they come.

I'd like to be able to maintain a minimalist setup consisting of a tank with a single powerhead for circulation and lights capable of sustaining macroalgae.

I will initially test this tank for ammonia and nitrates to gauge and estimate my maintenance workload, but after that I will not test it again unless I suspect an issue.

That means this tank setup will not be require (with any regularity) test kits, hydrometers, skimmers, and so on and so forth.

Estimated cost of this setup:

Used 29g tank with makeshift hood and CFL light conversion $20
Cheap penguin powerhead on clearance at petsmart: $15
Stand was free, it's just a tv stand that found a new job.
(optional) air driven hang on tank breeder box being used as a refugium and cheap air pump$15

So about $45 total with a refugium.

I intend to use a refugium in this tank because I plan to keep seahorses in it as the primary stock, once this happens the incompatible current inhabitants will be moved.

I also have plenty of tanks to do QT/hospital if needed and an array of meds to treat potential issues. I'm not going to factor this into the cost because it's a good idea to have, but not really mandatory.


I know at this point some people are scratching their heads or contemplating a witty response as to why this is a terrible idea, so lets go over the obvious (to me) cons of this setup.

Pathogens! Yes, the dreaded pathogen. I spend much of my time collecting freshwater natives so I'm well aware of this issue. I think that my experience in fw collection is probably what makes me less jumpy about this potential, not because it's unimportant, but just because it's a danger I face regularly.

Pollution: A very real danger, and one that hits home to me personally because our area was affected by the deepwater horizon spill.

That said, my water changes will consist of water taken preferably from the gulf in clear water, although I may utilize the intercoastal waterway from time to time. I'm undecided on whether I will use the bay, it just depends on what the salinity hovers around. That means no collection during/after rain.

My intended goal here is to utilize a stable and clean source of water.

Hitchhikers: Pathogens could fall under this, but I'm mainly talking about the different predatory creepy crawlies that can overwhelm a tank if one isn't careful.



With those things in mind, there is a sizable risk involved in doing this, since that variable is ever present. But considering this I believe the benefit outweighs it.

The biggest pro to this is as follows:
No equipment to buy, no test kits or salt mixes. As you all know, these things add up and are a continuous and sizable expense.


This is my ideal outcome:
Set up a sw tank and (hopefully) skip the cycle process by utilizing mediums with live bacteria populations. This will be accompanied by a healthy amount of macroalgae in the system as well as a very conservative stocking density.


Maintain a sw fowlr with happy and healthy inhabitants by
regulating water quality through weekly large water changes.

The other side effect of this is the reintroduction of new flora/fauna including copepods/amphipods and the like and refreshing minerals and nutrients in the system.


Well, this is my plan, basically. Be sure to check your state regulations and requirements before attempting this.

Let me know what you think, and if there's other concerns that I've missed (I'm sure there are some).
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Old 10-05-2012, 11:04 PM   #2
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I think it's a good idea. I am sooooo jealous that you can do a SW tank for $45 though
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Old 10-05-2012, 11:15 PM   #3
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We'll see, I guess time will tell. I'll do a separate thread with the tank setup and stock list.
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Old 10-05-2012, 11:36 PM   #4
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Very cool idea David. Are you going to put a heater in the tank? How are you going to match temps of the water for the large water changes?
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Old 10-05-2012, 11:51 PM   #5
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No, it's going to be room temp. If I find myself shifted to tropicals then I may go that route at some point, but since my intent is to use fish found here in the subtropical range they are quite comfortable at room temp. The other potential problem is seahorses that enjoy latching on to things and unguarded heaters don't seem to be a good mix.

As far as matching temps, it'll be a little more difficult in the winter time, but I'll just have to take newly collected water and let it equalize at room temp before I add it. This is only a 29g tank, so we are only talking a rubbermaid ice chest of water at a time.
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Old 10-05-2012, 11:53 PM   #6
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True - I suppose you don't have to dump it in as soon as you walk in the room. Cool.

Hopefully you bag some seahorses tomorrow!
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Old 10-06-2012, 10:26 AM   #7
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I'd be very interested to see the results of this. I can't do that here because taking anything like water or sand from beaches is illegal in Australia. ( only if you get caught, though. ) but I was actually thinking the other day about if you lived in the right climate and set up a tank properly about just using sunlight for coral growth and such. Didn't really look into it, was just a random thought.
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Old 10-06-2012, 10:54 AM   #8
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That bites. There's alot of restrictions here but it's not much different than fishing as far as abiding by regulations goes.
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Old 10-06-2012, 01:59 PM   #9
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This is one of the reasons that I wished I lived closer to the ocean. I would have a tank similar to this setup. I was very intrigued by the idea when I was reading about another member's tank that he used both water from the ocean and sunlight. He literally built a house and had a spot specially made for his tank. I took that and bearchums' tank with sand she used from the shore, was a really neat look I thought. It isn't something I'd recommend, but with the extra work to prevent parasites and pollution...it would be a really cool tank to run I think. God I need a bigger house for all I want to run...
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Old 10-06-2012, 05:37 PM   #10
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I think it is certainly doable and you've identified the major issues. It will be interesting to see the long term results. I would guess that you are likely to be plagued by nuisance nems and nuisance algaes most frequently. I know that when I was using LR harvested by my biological supply company off the coast of Florida that these were the two biggest issues I faced all the time.
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